By: Melissa Todisco for Forbes.com
Think about the last new product you tried and how you found out about it. Did someone tell you about it? Did you google it or go to its website to see what people had to say about it? Ask a friend about it?
My guess is that at some point before you purchased it “someone” recommended it to you. That someone could have been your friend or family member, your favorite social media influencer, a trusted expert, a credible media outlet or even another brand or organization you trust.
Every other year, Nielsen comes out with its Trust in Advertising report, and “recommendations from friends or family” is always the number one trusted source of information — closely followed by company websites, consumer reviews and editorial articles.
Whenever we make a decision to spend our money on something that is unproven we are seeking some kind of proof or assurance that it will be a quality and good experience, which is why we rely on what other people say about it.
It used to be that media outlets and review sites were the only places to find recommendations, but now anyone can become a social media influencer and a megaphone for your brand.
Influencer marketing has been on the rise. In the last 2 years, “influencer marketing” as a search term on Google Trends has risen by 400%. Companies both big and small are realizing the power of building relationships with influencers.
Especially for startups and new businesses looking to build their brand credibility, it is important to find people and organizations you can align with. The great thing about influencer marketing is that you can kill three birds with one stone:
1. Create great content
2. Earn credibility
3. Gain exposure through their network.
So how do you actually get influential people to talk about your business? Many people think you can just ask someone to talk about your product and they’ll do it, but it doesn’t work like that. You either need to compensate them for their time, spend months building a relationship, or provide them with something of value. Here are five ways you can start engaging influencers today:
Create a Valuable Experience
Influencers have built their reputation by meeting other people of influence. If you create an experience that allows influencers to network with other influencers, you will have the opportunity to build a personal relationship with them and share some information about your product — and maybe they will talk about it on social media. However, that shouldn’t be the goal. The goal should be to raise awareness for what you do and start to build a relationship with them that might net something in the future.
Influencers have built their following by getting exposure talking about what they love. Ask them if they would be willing to do a 30-minute interview for a blog post or to come to your offices to do a Facebook Live Chat. This approach works best when you have already built up a following on your own social channels to make sure it is worth their time. In an ideal world, they will share the blog post or promote the Facebook Live on their channels and help attract new potential customers for you.
Ask For Advice
Influencers like sharing their thoughts — on books, blogs, events, etc. Ask them if they would be willing to serve as an advisor to your business with other like-minded influencers. You can host virtual or in-person quarterly meetings to get their perspective on relevant trends in the marketplace and customer needs while getting feedback on the direction your business is headed.
Hire As A Spokesperson or Speaker
Hire a high-profile influencer to serve as a media spokesperson or a speaker at a customer event. This approach allows you to borrow equity from an established expert in the space who isn’t motivated to sell, so it creates a more valuable experience for the audience. When hiring a spokesperson or speaker, it’s best that you identify someone who authentically supports what you do and build a relationship with them before any speaking engagements. You’ll want to share messages about your business with them in advance, but let them put the messages into their own words so they can authentically share their opinion.
Pay For A Product Review
The fastest and most straight-forward way to engage an influencer is to pay them to create content. This works best for consumer products looking to work with bloggers, Instagrammers, etc. While you may be compensating them to create content, it is important to give them editorial freedom to ensure that the post they create feels authentic to their audience. This is a great example of a sponsored post done well by Mommy Shorts. While the post is sponsored by Land of Nod, it is her personal description of the entire experience that makes it attention-grabbing, trustworthy and helps position Land of Nod as a company to buy from.